Canola Oil: Good or Bad?

by in Healthy Tips, April 14, 2010
Chocolate Brownie Recipe
Canola Oil Brownies - Photo by Kate Sears/Food Network Magazine

Many of my recipes (and these brownies) call for canola oil instead of butter to increase the healthy fats and cut out the cholesterol. I often hear “Wait a minute, isn’t canola oil bad for you?” We’re setting the record straight.

What is Canola?
Today, canola oil is pressed from the seeds of the canola plant. Back in the early 70s, canola was derived from a plant called rapeseed. Rapeseed contains a hefty amount of erucic acid, which can be toxic in large amounts – this is where all those rumors came from! While canola and rapeseed plants are related (botanically speaking), they are very different. Canola oil contains virtually no erucic acid.

The Nutrition Facts
Canola is a good choice for cooking and baking because it’s low in artery-clogging saturated fat (lower than olive oil) and high in heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Like other plant-based oils (like olive, safflower, soybean and flaxseed) it’s high in vitamin E, cholesterol-free and has about 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon.

See a comparison chart of the types of fats in plant oils.

When to Use Canola Oil
Canola has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point, so it’s handy for stir frying, roasting, grilling and pan-frying. It’s a good substitute for vegetable oil when baking – just swap out equal parts. You can also use it for marinades and salad dressings when you don’t want the flavor of olive oil.

Bottom Line:
The rumors that canola oil is toxic are just that – rumors. There’s no reason not to add it to your healthy oil repertoire.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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  8. Candice says:

    Canola oil is made from the canola plant, (and olive oil comes from olives, sunflower oil from sunflowers etv). Vegetable oil is a generic term and could refer anything from palm oil (which is 51% saturated fat), to a blend of plant oils. The problem with "vegetable oil" is exactly what you noted – its vague and you don't actually know what you are getting. Best to go with an oil that is what it says

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